Crazy Rich Asians is the most delightful rom coms I’ve since Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock stopped dominating the genre in the early aughts. The movie comes with a great storyline helmed by an unheard of all-Asian lead cast. The theater was abuzz with the most diverse audience I’ve seen in a long while, all teeming with an excitement that was palpable. People were talking to strangers, calling each other sis and commiserating about getting moved to two different theaters after they realized the first one would not accommodate everyone that showed up. The most heartwarming part of the movie started before the first reel. I watched the auditorium fill up with generations of Asian families, from small children to age ambiguous elders. The room was electric with excitement and anticipation. When the movie started we all cheered and whooped at the screen.
The opening scene absolutely set a tone for the movie. We’re greeted by Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) arriving at a swank, but stuffy, looking London hotel. Eleanor and her children are soaking wet and she politely inquires at the front desk about her suite. In a moment reminiscent of the Pretty Woman store scene she is told she’s mistaken and that she should go to Chinatown. Eleanor smiles politely and asks to use the phone. We cut to some muffled speech and some gesticulating that can only mean somebody made a big mistake, huge. Eleanor goes back into the hotel and is told she needs to leave before they call the police. An old, crypt keeper looking white man comes down and warmly embraces Eleanor and lets his racist staff know that the Young family now owns the hotel. It was a satisfying Z-snap inducing moment that let everybody know that Eleanor is not to be played with.
The movie cuts to present day and we see Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) doing her thing in front of her game theory class. She schools her TA at poker and gives her class an aside about what happened and as her class is filing out we see BAE, Nick Young (Henry Golding). The scene cuts to the two having dessert and a blogger outing Nick as taken which culminates in a phone call from his mother. Next we head to Singapore where Rachel is finally confronted with the fact that Nick’s family is ungodly wealthy and we see snippets that show Nick’s family’s personalities.
Two performances of note were Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Peik Lin (Awkwafina). Awkwafina’s comedic timing and break-out performance brought levity and laughs to the film as Rachel’s old college friend. Awkwafina performance was consistent and key. Her character was a nouveau riche fairy godmother for her Chinese-American outcast friend. While I loved the film as a whole Gemma Chan’s Astrid was hands down my favorite character and the clear break-out star for me. Astrid is a woman of success and means who makes herself small to placate her husband’s ego. In some of our first moments with her we see her directing her housekeepers to hide all of her shopping bags so her husband doesn’t see them. Chan very accurately and poignantly portrays how soul crushing it is to subjugate yourself for another’s pleasure.
The usual wacky hi-jinks that are a part of rom coms ensue and while some plot points are predictable and formulaic, the movie manages to be refreshing. The movie displays an all-Asian cast in a Cinderella story that is usually reserved for their caucasian counterparts.This film proves the point that we deserve fluff too. All movies featuring diverse casts don’t just have to showcase our pain to be relevant and popular. I hope that Crazy Rich Asians continues to usher in an era of films about POC that are not centered in our pain or our struggle. I also sincerely hope that we get an Astrid spin-off.